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Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy issues statement on racism following social media backlash

The chicken chain’s CEO wants those who are able to use their "power and influence" to fight racial injustices.
Image: Chick-fil-A Embattled In Controversy Over Anti-Gay Marriage Remarks
Alex Wong / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

In the wake of continued protests over the death of George Floyd and police brutality in the United States, many large corporations have come out with statements about equality and pledges to donate to causes that fight racism.

On Wednesday, Chick-fil-A released a short statement of its own, decrying racism while making a promise to support unity.

"Racism should have no place in society. Not now, not ever. It cannot be tolerated," the statement read. "Our hearts are breaking, for our black Team Members, Operators and Staff and all those in the Black community who are suffering and who have suffered for too long because of racism.

"At Chick-fil-A, we know we have a role in moving all of us forward. We will listen. We will be intentional. We will share. We will act to build bridges — to spread care and hope into our world — today and always."

Chick-fil-A also shared a message (which was first published on the networking website LinkedIn) penned by company CEO Dan Cathy.

"'I am tired.' I’ve heard this phrase too many times in my private conversations with black friends and colleagues, in the last 72 hours," Cathy began. "What I have come to understand is that they are tired of the violence, abuse and injustice.

"They are tired, because no amount of kneeling or marching seems to truly address what has ailed our country for generations: A controverted view of race, which is sometimes overt and sometimes subtle but always destructive," the CEO continued.

Cathy explained that he's speaking out, despite the criticism he believes his words may receive, because it's no longer "OK to remain silent about the issues that now so publicly confront our nation."

"There are countless academics and analysts who have written about how our democratic capitalism benefits only a few hundred incredibly wealthy families, individuals and corporations, so that the American dream is now reserved almost exclusively for them and their descendants," he continued.

Cathy also recalled in his statement some of Chick-fil-A's "redevelopment" efforts in the West Side of Atlanta, a historically black neighborhood, according to local paper the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

His biggest call to action was to "wealthy families," asking them to use their positions of privilege for good.

"Because I am among that demographic, I am calling on them — us — to use our power and influence," he said.

Cathy also invoked teachings from the Bible in his post: "In the book of Nehemiah, found in the Old Testament, we read about the conviction of the cupbearer of the king, who became aware of the plight of his people in Jerusalem. His conviction moved him to action to be a catalyst for the renaissance in his homeland."

The lengthy statement, which does not explicitly address the Black Lives Matter movement, follows widespread criticism the chicken chain faced this week following rumors that it had reportedly donated to President Donald Trump's 2020 reelection campaign. These claims have been debunked previously. Per data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the company itself has not donated to Trump; only individuals have.

Since 2012, Chick-fil-A has been plagued with public perception problems largely due to its history of supporting anti-LGBTQ organizations. (In late 2019, the company announced it would stop doing so.) Gay rights activists have also criticized Cathy himself for taking a stance against same-sex marriage, as well as his family's history of donating to anti-gay groups.

Other fast-food franchises have drawn public outrage over their responses to the ongoing unrest across the country, as well.

On Wednesday, McDonald's tweeted the names of several black people who were shot by police, along with the messaging: "They were one of us."

In response, the company was called out for prioritizing profit over the wellbeing of its employees, especially employees of color.

Wendy's also recently faced backlash after Business Insider reported last month that one of its franchisees donated more than $440,000 to Trump's reelection campaign.

On Wednesday, the company tweeted that it would "donate $500,000 to support social justice, the youth and education in the Black community starting with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund."

The franchisee, James Bodenstedt, CEO of MUY Brands LLC, also owns Taco Bell and Pizza Hut locations across the country, so many have also called for a boycott of those brands.